Saturday, October 30, 2021

History Repeating Itself

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween to all of you on this spooky scary weekend! May it be a safe and special weekend for all of you!

This article is a follow up to my last post about Elizabeth Maxwell, my 7X Great Grandmother, originally from London, England. At just 18 years old, Elizabeth's mother forced her daughter to break her engagement to the man she loved and wanted to marry. We don't know why her mother felt so strongly against this engagement. We just know that she forced the issue and young Elizabeth did her mother's bidding and broke her engagement. It was devastating to the teen. Over the next few years young Elizabeth recovered from that terrible disappointment and made a good life for herself. My last post told about the amazing events that led to Elizabeth's immigration to Colonial America.

In the New World, in 1725, Elizabeth married a young man named Thomas Job of a respectable Pennsylvania family. Elizabeth and Thomas Job had a large family like most early American families. One of their children was a daughter they named Lydia. Lydia then married and had a daughter named Rachel who in turn had a daughter named Esther who married and had a daughter named Matilda Reynolds. 

Here are these consecutive generations of women in our family:

  • Elizabeth Maxwell (1700-1782) (husband Thomas Job)
  • Lydia Job (1735-1817)  (husband Benjamin Wilson)
  • Rebecca Wilson (1767-1857) (husband Job Sidwell)
  • Esther Sidwell (1791-1874) (husband Richard Reynolds)
  • Matilda Reynolds (1814-1876) (husband James Sheppard)

Marriage Record for Mattie Reynolds
and James Shepherd, April 2, 1833
Choosing the Way of Love. Matilda, the last in this list, had an experience strikingly similar to that of her GG Grandmother Elizabeth. Like her great great grandmother before her, Mattie was not allowed to marry the man she loved and with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life. A century after Elizabeth's experience history repeated itself. For young Elizabeth from London it was her mother who rejected her daughter's betrothed in 1718 with terrible consequences for the family. For Mattie it was not her mother who objected. It was her Quaker Church leadership. At that time the Quakers did not allow members to marry someone who was not a Quaker. But Mattie, despite being a practicing Quaker, was determined. She chose the way of love over the dictates of her Church and married her betrothed in 1833, a young man named James Sheppard (see the record above of their marriage). As a result in 1834 Mattie was disowned by her religious leaders for marrying outside the Quaker faith.

Elizabeth and her great granddaughter Matilda -- 100 years apart -- experienced a similar disappointment. Authority figures in their respective lives disapproved of the men they each chose to marry. In one case an overbearing mother stepped in to break up an engagement. In the other it was the church leaders who stepped in and punished the young bride for marrying the love of her life.

For at least 100 years -- going back to about 1700 -- this family line of descendants included dedicated Quakers. But with the one act of disownment in 1834, that all changed. 

A Typical Quaker Assembly
in 19th Century America

Our Respectable Quaker Heritage. But let's be clear. The Quakers were respectable people who helped create a great foundation for our country and our family both morally and spiritually. Their positive impact on our nation, and on our family's history, cannot be overestimated. Their stance against slavery, their objection to war, their emphasis on strong families, their acceptance of women leaders -- those were all wonderful things. But their strict stance on young people only marrying within the faith was bad policy. 

Descended From Gritty Women. It's great to know that we are descended from strong, principled, gritty women who rolled with the punches that came their way. We are direct descendants of Elizabeth Maxwell and her great granddaughter Mattie Reynolds, both strong women who refused to let unreasonable authority figures have the last word in their lives. They persisted. They took the bad treatment that came their way and did not let it define them. They made the most of life despite difficult circumstances.

Theirs is a family story we need to tell. They were not the only women in our families who were mistreated and given a bum deal. Others have had to endure similar fates and they too must be honored. But these two -- Elizabeth and Mattie -- remain outstanding examples of honorable women who were treated dishonorably, yet they prevailed. And in them we can find hope and promise for the future.
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Steve Shepard

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

The Rest of the Story

In my last post I began the inspiring life story of my 7X Great Grandmother Elizabeth Maxwell (1700-1782).  Born in London, she ran away from home at age 18 and sailed from England to Colonial Pennsylvania. The following is a brief summary of the rest of her story.

Available For Purchase. After the difficult weeks-long journey across the Atlantic, Elizabeth's ship made its way through Delaware Bay and then up the Delaware River and arrived at the port of Philadelphia in the fall of 1718. She was just one of numerous immigrants onboard the ship who were made available for purchase as indentured servants. At the Philadelphia dock at the time of her ship's arrival was an established Colonial land owner by the name of Andrew Job (1650-1722). By his attire Elizabeth recognized him as a Quaker. She was acquainted with the Quakers having grown up in London where her family belonged to a Quaker fellowship. Elizabeth knew that, as a Quaker, Andrew Job was likely to be fair and honest and treat her with respect. She encouraged him to select her -- to "purchase her time" was how they described it -- and fortunately he did. The ship's captain was reimbursed for the cost of her passage and Elizabeth became an indentured servant in the Job family of Chester County, Pennsylvania, for a term of 7 years.

Brick Meeting House Cemetery, Maryland
Fast Forward to 1725. After 7 years as a servant, Elizabeth was freed from her obligation. She had become such a respected and appreciated member of the Job household that she received a marriage proposal from Thomas Job, one of the sons of homeowners Andrew and his wife Elizabeth Job. It was a proposal she gladly accepted. Now that young Elizabeth was free, married and happily settled in the new world, she was free to think about her family back home in England. She wrote to her mother and her uncle Daniel in London, explaining where she was and what she was doing. It was the first time she had reconnected with them since leaving England on her intrepid adventure 7 years earlier. 

Reconnected With Family. Uncle Daniel wrote back to Elizabeth with the sad news that her mother had died. He also explained that she had inherited her mother's property, which included some priceless heirloom furniture. Uncle Daniel shipped the furniture across the Atlantic to his niece Elizabeth in Colonial America. She used her inheritance to help set up her own home with her new husband Thomas Job.

Brick Meeting House of Calvert, Maryland
where Elizabeth Maxwell Job worshipped
Elizabeth was one of the first persons in this part of our ancestry to become a Colonial American Quaker when she joined the Job household of East Nottingham, Pennsylvania in 1718. Quaker records show that she was accepted into the Nottingham Monthly Meeting of Quakers in the 1720s. 

Elizabeth Maxwell Job and husband Thomas Job went on to have a family of 12 children in Cecil County, Maryland as they did their part to help populate the new American frontier. They lived much of their lives near the Brick Meeting House of the Quakers in Calvert, Maryland, an historical structure which still stands today. She and husband Thomas, along with many other family, are buried in the Brick Meeting House Cemetery there.

It is with humble gratitude that we remember the life of Elizabeth Maxwell Job, a brave young immigrant from whom we are directly descended. May the fortitude and stamina she displayed in all that she experienced be duplicated in us, and the foundation upon which our lives are built. She is one more reminder that we carry within us the genes of greatness. 
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Steve Shepard

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Runaway Immigrant: Elizabeth Maxwell

One of the most inspiring stories in our entire family tree concerns our 7th Great Grandmother, English Immigrant Elizabeth Maxwell (1700-1782). Hers is a story filled with great emotion, the challenges of immigration, and overcoming incredible hardships. Her story has all the elements of an epic tale: heartbreak, romance, adventure, danger, family conflict, courage, even religious affection. We are fortunate to have so many details of her life and adventures from three centuries ago. As direct descendants of hers, we carry within us her DNA.

A 12 Generation Lineage. Here is a 12 generation lineage from Elizabeth Maxwell

  • Elizabeth Maxwell (1700-1782)...
  • Lydia Job (1735-1817)...
  • Rebecca Wilson (1767-1857)...
  • Esther Sidwell (1791-1874)...
  • Matilda Reynolds (1814-1876)...
  • Pvt. William Shepard (1835-1862)...
  • William Elmer Shepard (1862-1915)...
  • William Shepard (1888-1976)...
  • Eugene Shepard (1921-2003)...
  • Steve Shepard (b. 1948)...
  • Nathan Shepard (b. 1977)...
  • William Shepard (b. 2012)...

Uncle Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)
Author of Robinson Crusoe
(uncredited Wikipedia image)
Born in London, England at the turn of the 18th century, Elizabeth Maxwell was raised by her mother Elizabeth DeFoe Maxwell (1659-1725). Her mother was widowed in 1705 when Elizabeth was just 5 years old. One can only imagine how hard it was being a single mother in 18th century London. Fortunately mother and daughter were supported to a great extent by young Elizabeth's uncle Daniel Defoe. You may recognize that name. Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) was a renowned British writer. He is best known as the author of Robinson Crusoe, one of the most famous novels of all time. Uncle Daniel was a trader, a journalist, a pamphleteer, and even a spy. He was also an outspoken critic of the British government which got him into trouble. On occasion he had to go into hiding in the home of his sister Elizabeth Maxwell and her daughter young Elizabeth.

Embarassed, Angry and Alienated. When young Elizabeth Maxwell was just 18 years old she fell in love and became engaged to a young Londoner with whom she planned to immigrate to America. Her mother however disapproved of the young man and their plans, and forced the breaking of their engagement. It left the teen Elizabeth embarrassed, angry and alienated from her family and friends. Even uncle Daniel was unable to help. But Elizabeth was not deterred. Her mother was able to break Elizabeth's engagement, but she did not break her spirit. The strong willed teen immigrated by herself to the New World. Whether it was out of spite, or because of a broken heart, we will never know. 

Without notifying her mother or her uncle, the defiant young Elizabeth went to the London docks and made arrangements with a ship's Captain to get passage across the Atlantic on his ship. Upon arrival in the new world she would be sold as an indentured servant, with the proceeds going to the Captain as reimbursement. Indentured servants were not slaves. They were free citizens who were given free passage across the ocean or in some other way were paid in return for a commitment to work for a period of time. Many others on the ship had secured passage in the same manner. It was a very common arrangement. As a matter of historical fact, over half of all European immigrants to Colonial America at that time came as indentured servants.

An 18th Century Sailing Ship
much like the one on which Elizabeth sailed
(image by Regan Walker)
The Fall Out Back Home. Back in London her mother Elizabeth and her uncle Daniel were understandably shaken when they discovered she had immigrated on her own to Colonial America. Some historians note that Daniel Defoe published his famous novel Robinson Crusoe in 1719, the year after his niece Elizabeth ran away to the new world. Could it have been his dismay at his beloved niece's dangerous ocean voyage that inspired him to write his ship-wreck story of Robinson Crusoe? One can only wonder. 

The trip across the Atlantic on a rather small sailing vessel was the way 18th century immigrants made it to the new world. The journey took several weeks and was very dangerous. Sickness was prevalent. Water became tainted and in short supply. The weather could become treacherous. Food became scarce. Many became seriously ill. Deaths were not uncommon among transatlantic passengers. Despite all the dangers and misery, thousands of immigrants made it in this manner to the new world, to Philadelphia or other ports on the Atlantic seaboard.

It was an amazing life journey to this point for young Elizabeth Maxwell. She was still just 18 years old when she arrived in Colonial America in the fall of 1718. She was safe and sound but alone and uncertain about what would happen to her. She stepped off the ship and had her first look at the new world that lay before her. 

In my next post I will share more about the inspiring life of our 7X Great Grandmother and brave English Immigrant Elizabeth Maxwell.
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Steve Shepard (he/him/his)